Associate Dean’s Corner

Welcome to the Programs in Biomedical and Biological Sciences (PIBBS)! My goal as Associate Dean of Graduate Affairs is to bring top-notch Ph.D. students to USC, and to see them succeed fabulously as young scientists.”

Ite Offringa, PhD


Ite Offringa, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery
Associate Dean For Graduate Affairs
Director of PIBBS

Message from the Associate Dean

As their publication records attest, our students lay a strong foundation for their future careers, whether that be in an academic setting, in biotech, or any other field related to science. For those of you who are repeat visitors to the site, you may notice some changes. These are due to improvements we are making to better serve our students. Whereas we previously had two interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs into which most of our students entered, we have now expanded that to four interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs that capitalize on research strengths at USC. The programs are, in alphabetical order:

Cancer Biology & Genomics (CBG), which capitalizes on the presence of our Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and its clinical and basic scientists, and strength in all areas of cancer research including epigenetics and epidemiology.

Development, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine (DSR), which benefits from our Center for Regenerative Medicine and strength in stem cell research, tissue engineering and regeneration.

Medical Biology (MEDB), a highly translational program that takes advantage of our outstanding clinical and basic scientists who investigate human organ systems in health and disease and are developing strategies translate this knowledge to medical treatments.

Medical Biophysics (MBPH) includes all aspects of biophysics, with an emphasis on structural biology and on application of biophysical methods and theories to answer important biomedical questions.

Faculty membership in these programs is driven by their research interests and crosses disciplines and departments. After the completion of the PIBBS rotation year (year 1), students join a laboratory of their choosing and the Ph.D. program that best fits their research topic. While most students will join one of these 4 programs, some of our students join other Ph.D. programs in the USC School of Pharmacy or the Department of Preventive Medicine (including Epidemiology and Biostatistics). Flexibility and matching the program to each student’s research focus drives the selection of Ph.D. program. As students join their new labs, they partner with their new mentor to put together an Individual Development Program (IDP) with short and long term goals, to maximize their success.

Another exciting change is our new PIBBS core curriculum, which ensures that all of our students develop a strong active knowledge in Applied Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Applied Biostatistics and, given the importance of the human genome, Human Genetics and Genomics. Very importantly, we have added an interactive scientific writing class in the spring semester in which students learn how to write a fellowship grant application. To solidify this skill, the Qualifying Exam portion of the Ph.D. programs have been adapted. The written component consists of an NIH fellowship application based on the student’s research topic. The proposals are scored by a panel, and defended during the oral exam. Not only will this be an invaluable training experience, we anticipate that many students will submit these grants, and if funded it will add a very valuable dimension to the students’ CV.

I strongly encourage you to visit our faculty web pages to learn more about the fabulous research opportunities for our PIBBS students. We have a very wide variety of topics focusing on the biomedical and biological sciences in the broadest sense of those words.

In PIBBS, we foster outstanding science, collegiality and collaboration; in modern science, the most powerful research is done by interdisciplinary teams of scientists with diverse expertise, who join together to focus on a particular research question.


Ite Offringa, PhD

Dr. Offringa received her PhD in 1991 from University of Leiden (the Netherlands), and undertook a postdoctoral research fellowship from 1991–1996 at Harvard Medical School. She joined the USC faculty in 1996. Dr. Offringa is the recipient of numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program and others.

The Offringa lab studies lung cancer, specifically how epigenetic changes contribute to lung cancer development, how lung cancer cells evade the immune system, the effects of cigarette smoking and early detection. Another area of research in the Offringa lab is the analysis of biomolecular interactions, using a state-of-the-art switchSENSE biosensor.